First Lady Michelle Obama announced on Friday that the nutrition labels for food and drink products would be changing for the first time in 20 years.
At a health summit in Washington, the FLOTUS said,
“I am thrilled that the FDA has finalized a new and improved Nutrition Facts label that will be on food products nationwide. This is going to make a real difference in providing families across the country the information they need to make healthy choices.”
The change has been in the works for over a decade, but health-advocate Obama has been pushing the new requirements along ever since she moved into the White House.
There are four major changes that will go into effect July 26, 2018. Though it seems distant, companies will have to alter the labels for all of their products and reevaluate things such as added sugar and vitamins.
Added sugars will now be clearly labeled to distinguish between additives such as high fructose corn syrup and naturally occurring sweeteners, in which the former is linked to causing type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cavities.
For these added sugars, there will be a caveat that states how many grams are in that product and what percentage of the calories from the sugars will make up the person’s 2000 calorie diet.
Dr. William Dietz, chair of the Redstone Center for Prevention & Wellness at George Washington University, said,
“When people see the added sugar, they’re going to be less likely to buy [certain foods]. The added sugar is not only going to shape purchasing, but it may also promote changes in product formulations to lower the sugar content.”
The “calories from fat” line will no longer appear on the label, but it’s not so that people won’t know how much fat they’re consuming. Research shows that the type of fat is more important for a person’s diet than the amount. Because of this, the “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will remain on the label.
Serving sizes on the label will be more realistic and reflect the servings that people actually consume in one sitting. According to the FDA, serving sizes have changed since the last major change to nutrition labels and the new label must be based on current sizes.
For packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20 oz soda, the label will now have to change the calories and nutrients to display the amounts for one serving since most people would drink it in one sitting.
The FDA released an infographic that gives an example of how the serving sizes will change:
Vitamin deficiencies have also shifted in the last few decades, so the new label will remove Vitamin A and C because deficiencies in these vitamins for Americans are now rare. Instead, companies will be required to provide the gram and percent daily value for both Vitamin D and potassium. Deficiencies in these vitamins has increased and puts Americans at risk for chronic disease.
Another interesting requirement that will be on certain multi-serving food products will be dual columns that list the “per serving” nutrition facts in one column and “per package” nutrition facts in the other. With two columns, people can get a better idea of what they’re consuming in one sitting if they consume the whole product or if they follow the recommended serving.
Michelle Obama said at the summit,
“You will no longer need a microscope, a calculator or a degree in nutrition to figure out whether the food you are buying is actually good for our kids.”
These changes are monumental and are supported by advocates for more transparency from food companies and those working to combat the obesity epidemic in America.